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Mobile technology is bursting with innovation in the consumer space. People are now using the sorts of tools in their personal lives that have the power to transform industry, if only businesses could find ways to harness them. But are companies prepared to give their employees consumer-style technologies?

Traditional arguments against the use of consumer technology in a business environment tend to centre on the problems of security, integration and management. But the fact remains: from location-based services to instant messaging, social media-based collaboration and augmented reality, businesses are trailing behind consumer technology in the mobile space and missing out on opportunities to disrupt their markets.

Meanwhile, more and more mobile workers are forcing their employers’ hand. They’re bringing their favourite social media and instant messaging tools into the business, they’re communicating with colleagues through unofficial channels. They’re choosing to create and edit documents using their own device. They want to work more flexibly, from more locations and at different times of the day and night.

As a result, many businesses are losing out on greater productivity, efficiency, customer engagement and revenue opportunities. So, how can they raise their game?

Clément Levallois, Professor of Markets and an expert in innovation at EMLYON Business School, advises companies to focus on gaining the required skills in-house to create their own innovative mobile apps.

Levallois notes, “The future of developing tech skills that enable organisations to shift from being accessible on desktop to mobile is a transition that will take a while. The internet began to be embraced by western societies in the Nineties, at which point organisations were generally claiming ‘our business doesn’t really need it’, yet by the mid 2000s it became a basic necessity. In this sense history is repeating itself.”

“Many organisations still consider mobile platforms to be peripheral to their core business, but this will change, and as it does, the increasing dilemma of wasted expenses on sub-standard tech development is going to diminish,” he says.

Gartner concurs that enterprises can definitely improve their mobile app development. The analyst firm carried out a survey across the US, EMEA, Latin America and Asia/Pacific, to understand organisations' activities in mobile Business to Employee (B2E) and Business to Consumer (B2C) app development.

It found that 42 percent of organisations expected their spending on mobile app development to grow by a third between 2015 and 2016. But the average proportion of the overall app development budget allocated to mobile is just 10 percent - a two percent drop from 2015.

“Demand for mobile apps in the enterprise is growing, but the urgency to scale up mobile app development doesn't yet appear to be a priority for most organisations,” comments Adrian Leow, principal research analyst at Gartner.

“This must change, particularly given employees often have the autonomy to choose the devices, apps and even the processes to complete a task. This places an increasing amount of pressure on IT to develop a larger variety of mobile apps in shorter time frames.”

“When you add in the public apps that users are adopting personally, such as Dropbox, to use for business, the management problem becomes clear,” says Leow. “IT's ability to inventory and distribute these apps is fragmented at best, and more often it's incomplete.” One solution, says Leow, is to develop an enterprise app store.

There is evidence that some customer-facing businesses are embracing consumer mobile technologies, but there is still room for improvement for B2B, points out Kelvin Newman, IT expert and Founder of the BrightonSEO Conference, a forum for marketing professionals.

He feels that many businesses have an out-of-date view of mobile users. “B2B companies can often display a somewhat unrealistic and antiquated view of their own customers. They are fully aware that everyone now uses their mobile as their main way of research and consuming information online yet companies still fall into the trap of believing in a mythical customer who is chained to a Windows XP desktop PC.”

The only way for businesses to succeed with digital transformation and incorporating consumer-style mobile technologies into the enterprise, is to put their people first, says O2’s Andy Bell, Head of Public Sector Sales, at Telefónica UK.

He comments, “Last year, the words ‘digital’ and ‘transformation’ came together more than ever before. Virtually every organisation we met, across both enterprise and the public sector, spoke of an ambition for digital transformation. Being in the tech sector, for us it isn’t a huge surprise that there’s such a focus on it. The ubiquity of mobiles, social media, big data, cloud, cloud based apps – everything is coming together to change the way people behave, at home or in the office, and it’s demanding that organisations respond.”

“What I think we need to recognise, is that to create the right environment for digital transformation you must start with what really matters: your people. I believe that your people are the foundation of any successful change. There’s absolutely no value in digital for digital’s sake; it’s only valuable if it’s enabling your people to do their jobs better.”

One thing is for certain: businesses are gradually moving to app-based processes, which reflect consumer-style interfaces. From ERP to consumer-facing retail banking systems, apps are becoming more user-focused and user-friendly by the day. They’re simplifying processes at the front end; incorporating IM, conferencing and collaboration at the touch of a button; and handing the user greater power and productivity.

O2 is helping organisations across the sectors to develop their mobile innovation through services like Enterprise Mobility and mobile device management which takes a people-first approach to mobile innovation; and O2 Gateway, a , converged network that integrates fixed, mobile and Wi-Fi to deliver everything across a single, simple and secure platform.

Both B2B and B2C companies would do well to reinvigorate their mobile strategies, and recognise that business customers are also consumers - on a par with retail consumers.

At the end of the day, it’s down to end-user organisations to evaluate and adopt the technology and recognise its benefits: closer collaboration, higher productivity, greater efficiencies and cost savings, new revenue streams and, ultimately, better service. After all, the customer is always right, and that includes internal as well as external customers.

This article is bought to you in association with O2